Gaizka Garitano “We Knew That We Had To Improve Away From Home”
Gaizka Garitano was full of praise for his team following Wednesday night’s 1-0 win at Butarque. Athletic are the only team in the top 7 of the La Liga table to beat Leganés at home and that means something. It certainly wasn’t an entertaining match, but securing three points was all that mattered.
“Only two teams have won here throughout the year. I’ve seen every one of Leganés’s matches and the six above us haven’t won here. Leganés are very strong, especially in the aerial game. We have to congratulate the players. We adapted and in football the ability to adapt is always the most important thing. It’s very difficult to create chances on this field. We had Williams and we suffered until the end.”
Over the past few weeks Athletic have struggled to deal with crosses which was a concern going into this match. “Crosses are usually abundant here and we canceled them out without danger”, Garitano explained. “That’s what we have been training on the most, clearing crosses. We have conceded some goals in these situations, five in the last few matches. We had to stop that bleeding and become stronger.”
Garitano went on to express the importance of rotating the lineup against Leganés. Athletic will play their third game in six days on Saturday and the manager is having to be wise about his selections at a crucial point in the season.
“We had to change the system because of our right side and because of our opponent. We have problems without De Marcos and Capa. Lekue feels safe with this lineup. We had to make some changes, that was fundamental. We have some players who needed rest because we have three games in six days. We also have injuries. We have to wait and see who are the ones most ready for Saturday.”
When asked about the possibility of qualifying for Europe Garitano’s answer didn’t change. The Mister is only focused on taking it one game and one day at a time. Winning at Butarque was massive, but it means little if they can’t do the same against Alavés this weekend at San Mamés.
“We are going on a daily basis. I don’t believe in long-term goals, but waking up and wanting to improve has been the goal since we took over the team. We knew that we had to improve away from home. Of the six games that remained, four were on the road. Being good at just the San Mamés isn’t going to be enough. Today was a very important step but if we don’t win Saturday we will take a step back.”
Aritz Aduriz made his first start since suffering a knee injury back in January and Garitano was pleased with his performance. “I rate Aduriz very positively”, said the manager. “After months of not having him, seeing him back on the field fills me with joy and satisfaction like everyone else. He gives us a lot.” With the three points in the bag, Athletic could move one step closer to qualifying for Europe with a win on Saturday.